From a Funeral Sermon
Many people have asked me if it is wrong to ask God to let them die. Others, like Albert, did not feel the need to ask for my opinion. But Albert has been praying for the last several months for death to come. He has been saying, in so many words, “Lord, I’m ready anytime you are.” Albert has been waiting for this day. He has said so many times.
What should we say about that? Is wrong to want to die so much that you pray for it? Shouldn’t we want to hang on to life no matter what?
The answer to this question has two parts. First of all yes, of course it’s okay. You can say anything you want to God in prayer. He invites us to come to Him with all our desires, needs, thoughts and emotions, right or wrong. Your Heavenly Father wants to hear from you whatever you want to tell him; just like earthly parents want their children to feel comfortable coming to them with anything that is on their mind. God, like a good father or mother, will sort through our many requests, and then, in His infinite wisdom will decide what is best for us and when, and He will answer our prayers as He sees fit. So yes, we can bring to God whatever is on our mind; but then it is for you to trust in Him and leave it in His hands, praying as we do in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy will be done.”
But on a deeper level we must ask if that a good and proper prayer. Should we pray for the end of our life? Well, that depends on who you are and where you are at in your life and why you want to die. If you are 25 years old and going through some temporary bad times and just sick of it all, well than no, you should not be praying for your life to end. You should be praying for a way out of your troubles and for the Lord to give you the strength to bear them until you do see your way through.
But if, like Albert, you are 79 years old and you are used to being active and working and now you aren’t; and if you can’t sleep at night and can’t stay awake during the day; and if you have a half a dozen serious health problems that are combining to make you miserable most of the time, and you are unable to find help or relief; and not only that, but, if you believe like Albert did, that Jesus has gone on ahead to prepare another place for you; well then there is nothing at all wrong with saying, as Albert did many times on days when he was not well, “You can take me home anytime Lord, I am ready.” Even then we must leave such matters in God’s hands. If God thinks there is a reason for us to stay here longer, that is up to Him and we have to stay. But there is nothing wrong with praying, “Lord, I’m ready.’
There is a good Biblical example of just such a prayer by another good man. It is in Luke chapter two, right after the Christmas story. When the baby Jesus was eight days old, Mary and Joseph took him into the temple for the customary presentation before the Lord:
Now there was an old man living in Jerusalem named Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the Temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God saying, “Lord, now you may let your servant depart in peace, according to your Word, for my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the sight of all people.” (Luke 2:25-31)
Or in other words, “Take me now, Lord, I am ready.” Simeon lived to see the fulfillment of God’s promise and now the old man was ready to die. In fact, it was his prayer. In the great old words of the King James Version he prays, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace.”
That is a good prayer. Remember it. You too may want to use it sometime. When the time is right, it is a wonderful prayer. It is right out of the Bible. Albert’s words might have been a bit different, but his wishes were the same as old Simeon’s; and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, it is a great blessing to be ready and willing to go when the Lord is ready to call you. Just about every week for 79 years Albert was here, in this sanctuary, for the Sunday morning meeting with the Lord. He wasn’t afraid this week to face death and meet Jesus in person. He was praying for it.
We all know that we are not permanent residents on this little planet. We may be called to leave this world and this life at any time, and we might not want to go. I, for one, am in no hurry; not at this point in my life. That is also good and right. When we are healthy and feel good, and we’ve worked hard to get our lives in order, and we are enjoying our family and friends, then we might want to pray, “Lord, don’t take me now; I want to stay a while. I like it here.” And that’s a good prayer, too. It can be said in gratitude for the goodness of God’s gift of life and this good earth that God has given us right here, right now. But we need to remember that we must not hold on too tightly. Whether we are praying to go on to our heavenly home, or to stay here in this home, we must always be willing to add the same petition, “Thy will be done, O Lord.”
As we all know, the golden years of retirement are not always golden. The problems of old age and poor health can take all the pleasure out of living. But even these problems can serve God’s purposes, reminding us that this earth is not our home. Our aches and pains and other miseries can begin to pry our fingers away from the all too tight grip we may have on this life. Poor health can make us begin to look forward to that other home, which the Lord has gone on ahead to prepare for us. And in that place, as the Bible says, there will be no more illness, aches or pains; no more death or funerals; and no more tears or grieving.
This earthly home can be a pretty good place much of the time. Albert had many good years here of health and strength, a loving family, and lots of friends. There were many good years of farming and trucking, of being married and raising a family, of fishing with the grandchildren, playing cards with friends, going to old-time dances, 4th of July picnics, and church potlucks. God certainly does give us a bounty of blessings here. This earth He has created is a wonderful place to be much of the time. But not all the time, and sometimes the troubles can overwhelm us. Someday we, like Albert, will be completely overwhelmed and we will die. We will be forced to leave this good home, ready or not.
Even though this world can be a pretty good place much of the time, we have a promise from Jesus that he will take us to a place that is even better. Jesus gave the disciples that promise in John chapter 14, where he said: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms, and I am going there to prepare a place for you. I will come back and take you to be with me, so that you also may be where I am. I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.”
Believe in Jesus and you will be all right, now and forever.
Ecclesiastes 12:1 — Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them.”
Luke 2:29 — Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word.
Philippians 1:21 — For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
And you most kind and gentle death,
Waiting to hush our final breath,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
You lead to heaven the child of God,
Where Christ our Lord the way has trod.
O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
—All Creatures of Our God and King, verse six, St Francis (1181-1226)